I hereby make the following confession of my own volition: I suck at no-limit. I'm no good at it. I'm better than I once was, and I'm better in a tourney than in a cash game, but still, I am no damn good. And the worst kind of no damn good; just no damn good enough to suck out enough times to make the bubble. When the cards break my way I might make the money... once in a while.
Thankfully, this kind of self-awareness creates the ideal mentality for a home tourney hosted by the one and only Lance Kim. Fhwrdh was kind enough to send me an evite, and I've been looking to have some fun and get some live play in at a place whose name doesn't rhyme with Mommerce Masino.
First I had to get there. The Geek's stellar run at Full Tilt's Razz tourneys (?!?) had him running a bit behind, which was only a problem for me insofar as said Geek was my ride for the night. (A fact for which I haven't thanked him enough, since being a passenger allowed me to partake freely of the beer.) I gave Glyphic about nineteen location updates on the way, only lying once ("We're three blocks from Wilton" = "We're roughly nowhere near Wilton and about to get stuck behind a bus", for future reference). Fortunately we rolled up just as everybody was taking seats so we didn't miss any blinds.
Note to self: consider taking up a collection to pay the Geek's cell phone bill.
I had the button on Lance's blind, which limited my opportunities to steal, so I resolved to just play solid poker. Which is easy to do when you're not even getting speculative hands; still, I managed to foul it up in pretty short order.
I limped once with 55 and missed my set in a multiway pot, not wanting to call Lance's flop bet with two overcards out there. Won a small pot where I called a small raise in the big blind with JTs (one of only two instances in which I held suited connectors). The flop came KJx and I checked, as did blogless John. At that point I decided my jacks were good; he bet about half the pot the turn and I checkraised to 3xwhateverhisbetwas, which he called. (Uh-oh.) He checked behind at the river, though, and my jacks were good. Hey, this no-limit stuff is easy!
A couple of hands later I look down at my first legitimate hand, a wired pair of 10's. Hank had raised it up to T300, three times the big blind, and I began to play stupid poker. I bumped it to T600 (I think) and he flat called. I immediately put him on AK.
I was half right.
The flop came 782 with two diamonds and he checked to me. I went into the tank. (Over a friggin' check, I went into the tank.) There's about T1500 in the pot and I want it. But I only have about T2100 or so in chips (and at the time I miscounted, thinking I only had T1800). Making a pot-size bet virtually commits me, and I expect that Hank will come over the top of a half-pot bet. On the other hand I really do think he's got AK, and don't want to give the free card.
In retrospect, I should have checked behind, especially considering the way the cards came. Instead, I moved all-in. Hank immediately flipped up the rockets and I resolved never ever to play a hand against him for as long as I lived.
The turn came a 9, giving me an open-ended straight draw and ten outs for the river. Which was a 6. Hallelujah, I'm a chip leader! I apologized profusely. Shortly thereafter we took a break and I picked myself up off the floor and started playing again.
A few hands later I raised UTG to 3xBB with QQ; Jake, one to my left, flat called, and Hank came over the top. I shoved all-in to isolate; Jake wasn't happy about laying it down but he went away, leaving Hank all-in with... 88. A queen came on the flop and he was drawing to runner-runner eights, which would have been good and just, but it didn't happen. (Guess I shoulda let Jake stay in, but I didn't want to see an overcard on the flop.)
I was sitting on a pile of chips. The next orbit I found KK in the small blind against Lance's raise and reraised. He shoved and I called, and he flipped over QQ. A queen on the turn left me drawing slim and he doubled up, and I was down to a small (but manageable) stack.
I paid the beat forward by cracking Hiltons with JJ in a battle of the blinds, and then regained the lead over Lance by flopping 777 on a board of T73. The turn was a deuce and he led out again; I came over the top and he started talking to himself. "Can I get away from this hand? I don't think I can get away from this. I can't lay this down." I flipped over the set and he showed... 72o, drawing dead. Having cracked the Hammer, I begin to feel invincible.
When we got down to 10 we took a break and gathered at the final table. I had switched from Red Hook to Newcastle and immediately began to affect the genteel manner of the European player. For a while I mostly stole - my image was tight enough that an UTG raise with T9o would take down the blinds. I'd decided in advance that the first time Chris came into a pot and I had a hand, if I had a chance I was going to put all my chips in; we were pretty close in chips and I figured either I'd double up and run over the table, lose a race and be out, or save myself some future blind steals. Coincidentally, the first time he raised my blind (small blind also called) I looked down at AKs and shoved. Nobody wanted to play with me. (Later Chris said both that it would have been a race and that he had T9s - wily to the end, that one.)
I had a few otherwise notable hands - I made a play with a suited Hammer to lighten up my image, and hit a pair on the flop but didn't improve and had to lay it down (face up). And I turned a full house out of the big blind with T2o but couldn't even get a min-bet call on the river.
As play continued I tried to play some power poker with my big stack. I made an aggressive play in the small blind with AJo, popping it to T1500 (T500 blinds), and was a little surprised when Jake called me. The flop came queen high and didn't help me but I bet out T3000 anyway, enough to force Jake to commit if he wanted to keep playing. He didn't.
Fhwrdh had fought his way back to a reasonable chip stack but went out on subsequent hands by running into a bigger pocket pair, the last to me (giving me three bounty chips, and hence half my buyin back already). Chris took a big hit with 88 vs. AA in the second-longest deliberation of the night, then went out shortly thereafter pushing with J4. Eventually we were down to five players (four paid) and I had a pretty healthy chip stack. Then I started playing stupid poker again.
Jake made an UTG raise of about 3xBB, and I looked down in my blind to see AJo. I figured Jake wasn't committed to the pot and at worst I'd probably be in a race, so I asked him to count it down. He got most of the way there and I went all-in, and he turned over A...Qo. I mentally kicked myself in the head forty or fifty times and prayed for a jack-high flop. But the jack never came, and all of a sudden I found myself relatively short.
The very next hand it was folded to me in the small blind; I looked down at 99 and started counting my chips. And considering my options: if I raised any reasonable amount, I was committed to the hand. If I limped and he came back over the top, I was calling. And I didn't want to limp and have him hit a lone overcard to take the pot. I figured against a random hand I was likely to be at worst a slight favorite. So I pushed in. But the blind had JJ. My run of suckouts was over, and I was out on the bubble.
I promptly sat down at the no-limit cash game and tilted away a buy-in. Why? Because I suck at no-limit. If you learn nothing else from reading this, learn that.